File 770 usually has a tiny uptick of Twitter followers every month, and I happened to notice that what was tracking +19 a few days ago is now +6. Since I don’t think I did anything new to make people irate during the week I am going to guess it’s not about me and instead reflects the followers who have terminated their Twitter accounts because Elon Musk took over the service.
I’ve seen many Twitter users in the sff community discuss what course they should take once Musk assumed control because at times he has signaled there will be a radical change (for the worse) in content moderation and a weakening of rules enforcement. Some wrote they were thinking about leaving. I read a few announcements by others just before they did terminate their accounts. Their decisions are to some degree a protest, and an obviously more quantifiable one than the subtle changes that will be registered in other users who, although unhappy with developments, keep their accounts but filter more severely what they post, or simply post less.
I wondered if there was data that could be used to infer how many people have taken the step of actually quitting the service.
I laid the subject before John Scalzi and asked if he’d experienced a fluctuation in his large Twitter following this week. He had:
I was at 204.2K this time last week; I’m down to 202k today, so I’ve seen a drop of about 1%. When I noted that, other people also anecdotally noted similar percentage drops. My expectation is that the drops may be skewed by general political affiliation and/or antipathy to Musk, either as a person or with regard to his stated aims for the service. 1% is not a large number overall — I’ve had larger drops before when Twitter cleared out some bot accounts — but the question is whether these drops will stabilize, as they’ve done in the past, or continue as Musk continues to bumble along. If I drop below 200k, and especially if that happens by the end of this month, I will consider that not great news for Twitter’s general direction.
(Thanks to John for permission to quote his reply.)
That people are actually terminating their accounts speaks to their determination to separate themselves from the future of Twitter. Because there are easier alternatives, like just abandoning the account. Think how common that phenomenon is anywhere in social media where accounts are free. Therefore, the wave of departures from Twitter this week indicates an intentional message, and we will watch to see whether it is the start of a trend.